The $750,000 Best of Ohio series takes center stage each year on the Ohio Fund schedule. Five races that cover each division at varied distances all carry a purse of $150,000. Gone almost unnoticed by the crowd at Belterra Park last Saturday, was the fact that they witnessed history in the first race of the day. No placard, trophy, groups photo opportunity or public recognition, just another day at the office for veteran jockey Perry Ouzts.
It was a $22,300 Ohio-bred maiden special weight that was won in wire to wire fashion by first-time starter Mandi's Pride. The attention should have been immediately moved to the rider astride the 2-year-old filly, 63-year-old Perry Ouzts. It was career victory 6,858 for Ouzts and it moved him into the position of being racing's ninth leading rider in the history of the sport.
The all-time leading jockey in Ohio, Ouzts plays down his accomplishments and is a man of few words. “Yeah it feels pretty good,” he said. “What made it special was winning it for Larry (Smith), I caught (Mario) Pino and passed him on a horse trained by Larry too.” The secret to his success? “I go to work every day. I'm on the backstretch five days a week, whether I have a horse to work or not – that's what keeps me winning.”
The Belterra Park meet ended the following day with Perry having a 51-win lead over John McKee in second. It was the 33rd title at Belterra Park and River Downs in Cincinnati for Ouzts, while he lays claim to 13 top honors at the former Beulah Park just outside of Columbus.
Only one rider in racing has ridden more races than Ouzts' 49,729 mounts, and that is the now-retired Russell Baze who went to post 53,578 times. The only active rider ahead of Ouzts is Edgar Prado who is sitting on win 6,965. “I really feel Edgar might want to go out with win 7,000,” said the native of Riverdale, Arkansas, where he grew up with his cousin Earlie Fires. “You've got to keep producing winners or they'll say you're too old. I've heard it said I'm in a slump when I'm winning one a day. I hope to get four more years in the saddle and do it well and stay at the top of my game.”
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